The modern Ranger battalions were first called upon in 1980. Elements of 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger) participated in the Iranian hostage rescue attempts. The groundwork for our Special Operations capability of today was laid during training and preparation for this operation. Rangers and other Special Operation Forces from throughout the Department of Defense developed tactics, techniques, and equipment from scratch, as no doctrine existed anywhere in the world.
The farsightedness of General Abrams’ decision, as well as the combat effectiveness of the Ranger battalions, was again proven during the United States’ invasion of Grenada on October 25, 1983. The mission of the Rangers was to protect the lives of American citizens and restore democracy to the island. During the operation, code-named URGENT FURY, the 1st and 2nd (-) Ranger Battalions conducted a daring low-level parachute assault (500 feet), seized the airfield at Point Salinas, rescued American citizens at the True Blue Medical Campus, and conducted air assault operations to eliminate pockets of resistance.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS:
“Grenada, day one or two,”
“It was such a blur that I don’t remember. We got the mission to air assault onto the beach at Grande Anse to rescue about 200 Americans holed up in one building. Paul Andreasen and I (both Sergeants then) climbed aboard a USMC CH-46 just before the mission. SFC Magana was my PSG and Goss was my Platoon Leader. The bird held about 15 of us, the whole platoon, as I recall (only about 250 from 2nd battalion went) As the rotors spooled up the two .50 cal Marine door gunners were blessing themselves, and checking their guns; obviously terrified. I was scared shitless myself, about to go into a hot LZ in broad daylight, but found strength in the fact that at least I was not the MOST scared. One Marine turned to us and asked (his eyes showing that he REALLY wanted a good answer) “Have you guys ever done this?!” to which Paul replied, beautifully, Oh yeah, we do this all the time! (and he’s got this shit eating grin, and we just start laughing out loud; and I’m thinking, what a great line… and this Marine is now convinced that we are maniacs, and blesses himself again…)
“The bird takes off, and heads out to sea, along with what seems like dozens of others, both ’46’s and CH-53’s. I sat next to one of those punch-out escape windows. The actual window had been removed even before takeoff because we KNEW we may have to use them, making a nice way to get out. Looking out the windowless opening, I could see nothing but helicopters coming in low over the ocean, making a bee-line for the Grande Anse beach. It was a view right out of “Apocalypse Now”. We started taking ground fire, and the birds broke off the attack and did a racetrack. Cobras continued in with guns firing.
“Heading in again, as our bird approached the beach (not close to where the rest of the birds were landing), things started to go wrong. Strange sounds. Were the rounds hitting the bird? Don’t know. The ’46 started shuddering violently. Pilot put it down in the surf, so close to the Palm trees (no beach, just some rocks), that the blades were trashing the trees. The rear ramp opened a crack and then stopped, as water started filling the floor of the bird. All the Marines on that bird were the first to go. They left us in there like a target. I’m thinking, “this is not good”, and with my 100 pound ruck, tried to go out that escape window. The 2 LAWs under the top flap of my ruck held me up. Magana shouts “DROP RUCKS”, then manages to get the ramp to drop. We struggle to get out into the water, about 4 feet deep. My ruck, one strap off, and one caught on my M-16 sling tangles and I go right underwater as if I’ve got an anchor around my neck. Slipped out of the ruck, and made it to the shore. By this time there is close air or some other shooting. Hell, I was so disoriented at this point, it was hard to say where the fire was coming from, but seemed directed at the trees along the beach. Believe now it was a Navy fast mover with nose cannon firing up the treeline. Things then got quiet, we get up and run up the beach a couple hundred meters to where the rest of 2nd Bat is landing.
“I am prone, securing the corridor between the building where the hostages are and the PZ (which is a strip of beach so narrow that the birds have their wheels in the water to avoid having the blades hit the palm trees). At this point, I think it was AC-130 that was putting steel around us. I saw Goss jumping on one foot, barking out instruction and pointing. I was an alternate on the aid and litter team, yelled over to SP4 Morales to help me, then grabbed Goss by the waist with both arms to carry him to the nearby “precious cargo” bird to be evacuated, rotors where whipping, forcing us to yell to be heard. He pushed me away, yelling: “GET BACK TO THE LINE!” I did.
“Within minutes, birds were doing the touch and go as Americans were hustled aboard and whisked off. As the perimeter collapsed and we boarded another bird to leave, I sat on the seat across from Goss, and went for his bloody foot. Again, He pushed me (and Andreasen, who was also right there, along with SFC Magana) back. Pain was on his face, but he would not let any of us touch him. The bird lifted, and during that short ride back to Pt. Salinas Airstrip, I watched the puddle of blood under Goss’ foot get bigger and bigger. Paul and I met eyes, and without words, agreed that we would grab him when he finally fell over from loss of blood.
“Goss collapsed just as we touched down. We drug him off the bird, and started ripping his gear off. My knife was razor sharp and gashed his foot as it went through the boot. Gamma goat from the 82nd pulled up and medics joined in. Someone started an IV. At this point, people were working on him that knew more than Paul and I, so we just backed off.
“For a few seconds there, standing on that huge expanse of tarmac, sounds of rotor blades fading, the enemy several clicks away, I felt suddenly exhausted. The adrenaline was gone, for now, and I was gulping air. Paul and I started walking to a spot of ground, south of the airstrip, that C Co had claimed as their own. The Americans that we had rescued were nearby, guarded now in a perimeter of 82nd troops. As Paul and I approached, they all stood up, recognizing Rangers as their rescuers (and not the 82nd), and started cheering. There is nothing I can put into words to describe my feelings upon seeing those Americans cheer us after that rescue.
“Paul raised his fist, shaking it, and shouted “WE DO EMBASSIES TOO!!” at this point we were laughing hysterically, more than anything, I think, out of relief to still be alive. (As our bird was going down, only 30 minutes earlier, I thought we were dead men). I have tried to compare those intense, complicated emotions to other situations before or since in my 37 years… There are none. I was never more proud to be a Ranger.”
C Co, 2d Bn, 75th Inf.(Ranger)